Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beijing, We Have a Problem

Mack Hall

The 19th was the British century, and the 20th was the American. The 21st is said to be the Chinese century, but beijing has a problem with sex.

To be specific, the Communist Chinese need laboratories to determine what sex other peoples are. Maybe we all look the same to them.

How can a nation that means to rule the planet, the skies, the moon, and Barbie’s playhouse do so if they are unclear on some basics, such as what are little comrades made of?

Perhaps the problem originates with Barbie and Ken, those all-American toys made in China for a generation now, and both of whom are indeterminate in their equippage and orientation. G. I. Joe, made of toxic waste in the factory next slum over, is a little more butch, but who’s going to hassle a guy who doesn’t know what branch of the service he’s in but carries machine guns? Maybe the Chinese have been spending too many hours making toys and sniffing too much glue and too many chemicals to be clear on the concept of boy and girl anymore.

The hosts of the Olympics, which are to sports what the current Chinese regime is to parliamentary democracy, have set up a laboratory to determine if purportedly female athletes are in fact males. Apparently “drop ‘em” is not adequate; neither is “turn your head and cough.” And you can bet your bottom, well, bottom that the scientist chicken inspectors will all be comrades of the male persuasion.

“Okay, comrade, ve haf ways of making you talk in basso profundo.”

The laboratory will not be testing male athletes to determine if they are actually females passing for bubbas, which would appear to be a violation of some Universal Declaration of Something or Other which associations of overpaid suits who know entirely too many big words are always generating. Where is the equality, comrades?

Chess players are not tested to determine their sex, nor or bandsmen, though of course Hulk Hogan never tried out for twirler. Cheerleaders are not subjected to inspection by committees of drooling Commie scientists making memories with their cell-phone cameras, nor are girls’ softball teams.

The air pollution in Peiping / Peking / Beijing is so bad that perhaps the what-sex-are-you committee will listen to the athletes’ coughs with some sort of audiometer for tone and pitch in order to determine sex. This would be less intrusive than a blood or wee-wee test, except when the toxicity of the weird chemicals the Chinese use to make stuff to sell to us causes the occasional cough-up of a chunk of lung.

So what happens if the committee determines that Carlita is in fact Carlos?

“Comrade athlete, the first screening suggests that you are not what you purport to be. Prove to this committee that you are a woman – serve us tea. In high heels. And make sure you do the Bunny dip. Let us hear you giggle.”

And if an athlete is determined to be the wrong sex? “Comrade athlete, The New and Improved Glorious Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic of China is proud to be the world leader in selling and installing body parts. If you’ll just take a look at this catalogue of, oh, volunteers from Tibet as well as, cough, uppity local volunteers from the Han, all in primo condition, we can can shoot…um…harvest the volunteer and have you a new sex up and running by the time the games begin, complete with a certificate of authenticity. Yes, the East is Red and your VisaCard is welcome. Plus, if you act now, you get to keep the Ginsu knives we use for the surgery, as well as the stick-it-anywhere magic light bulb and the roach spray.”

ChiCom games – gotta love ‘em.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mack Reports on Hurricane Dolly

Mack Hall

Mighty Category (number) Hurricane Dolly demonstrated Mother Nature’s wrath and scorn for man’s place in the planet as she slammed / stormed / thundered ashore to make landfall at (place) while a terrified humanity bravely hunkered down with all escape routes cut, praying to dodge the bullet as this mother of all perfect storms angrily manifested her rage with rogue winds tossing cars about like matchboxes and snapping trees like matchsticks, drenching the earth in the mother of all rainfall, spawning tornadoes and cutting a swath of destruction and leaving in her wake a cataclysm of destruction and a tsunami of wrecked emotions impacting women, children, and minorities most, the situation on the ground evoking post-traumatic-syndrome personal-demon memories of Hurricane Katrina, a perfect storm that changed our lives forever and defined a generation. (Sepia filter on lens. Fade to a fellow sitting in the mud playing the harmonica. Cut to a toothpaste commercial.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

World Geezer Day

Mack Hall

With the close of World Youth Day in Australia, we aging Boomers naturally ask why we can’t have a day of our own with a visit by the Pope. After all, our parents said we were special, right?

The young people are fond of singing “Benedetto!” (Clap! Clap!) over and over while waiting for the B of R to land at the airport. For World Geezer Day it’s more likely to sound like “Benedetto!" (Wheeze! Wheeze!). Gotta keep that oxygen going, Gramps.

World Geezer Day will require clearly written rules, unlike World Youth Day. The kids in Sydney were by all reports just as nice as can be, but Boomers tend to feel (and it’s all about feelings, right?) that ordinary good behavior is so bourgeois and beneath them. Here, then, are the rules for the proposed World Geezer Day:

John Lennon, the Dalai Lama, and Heather Mills are not saints. The canonization of Jimmy Buffett, however, is up for discussion. Even so, “Margaritaville” will not be sung at the Elevation.

Please note the signs for the hand-holding section and the non-hand-holding section at Mass, as well as the hand-waving-mouth-open-eyes-closed section and the respectfully-modest-it’s-not-about-me section. If you don’t know how to behave at divine services, young people will be available to help you grow up.

The Mass will be in Latin. Deal with it. Your ancestors understood it perfectly, as do your children and grandchildren. It is only baby boomers, with all their college degrees and who are purportedly the most educated Americans ever, who wah-wah that they can’t understand the simple Latin of the Mass.

Teenagers will be provided to assist you with your oxygen tanks and to help you understand the difference between the Mass and Bob Dylan.

There will be no – repeat, NO – felt banners. Further, there will be no liturgical dance, no guitars, no sitars, no bongos, no tambourines, no dangling speakers, no slide shows, no films, no turning on and off of lights. The Mass is worship, not a hootenanny.

As a concession to politics…um…dietary needs, communion wafers are organic and fair trade, and made from wheat raised by barefoot First Nations farmers living in communes and singing songs about Chez Guano along an obscure tributary of the Verizon River in Lower Saxony (you paid attention in third-grade geography, didn’t you?).

One of the featured workshops will be on praying the Rosary. This will be taught by teens since obviously you people never paid attention to your mothers and fathers.

Sorry, no, the Holy Father will not autograph your tee-shirt.

Please understand that the Sacrament of Penance cannot be accomplished through text-messages (“4-giv me F 4 I have sind…”).

Incense, yes; marijuana, no.

When all else fails, remember that this is not 1968. Grief counselors under thirty will be available to help you find closure.

John Paul II began World Youth Day during his reign, and Benedict XVI has enthusiastically continued this happy custom. Perhaps this is because neither Karol nor Joe had a youth. Oh, technically they did, but they grew up under the Nazi tyranny, not exactly kegger time on the beach. Modern kids gather openly to celebrate the Faith; when young Karol and Joe were young they celebrated the Faith too, but usually in secret, and further celebrated finding something to eat occasionally, and celebrated being alive at the end of each regimented day and at the end of each terror-filled night. Perhaps it is this genuine deprivation in their teens and twenties that made them so determined to joy in the young people of our time as a new generation celebrates life and worships in freedom.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For Jason and Ingrid on the Pilgrimage Road to Santiago de Compostela

Mack Hall

An Old Man Takes His Evening Walk

For Young Jason and Inky on Their Morning Journey

An old man weary-wends his evening walk
Along a wood-walled way, soft-shadow shaded:
Our planet’s little star now makes report,
Passing the watch to mysteries-haunted dusk;
The spoors of animals, like chalk upon
A classroom board, the sums of life drawn out
In fear and pain, and soon to be erased,
Detail in mud the curious walks-about
Of deer and possum, dog and squirrel and snake,
And an armadillo’s sudden-wheeled death.

From Grendel’s darkening woods the heavy air,
Incensed by ghosts, patrols the twilit mists
In search of day-lingering happiness
To drag down, down into the rising chill
Of long-dead summer grasses sighing for
The hopes of a longer-dead spring. The moon,
Dry ages cold, rises above the trees
As an ice-dead witness to the decay
Of stubborn dreams caught out in the open,
Too far through the fog from the lamp-lit door.

Perhaps this night is a dreamed pilgrimage,
To Santiago, perhaps, or to Rome,
Or maybe to far Constantinople
Dreaming under the Bosphorean sun,
Notre Dame de LaSalette, Canterbury,
Or happy mysteries in some sunlit field,
Duct-tape-repaired sneakers slapping the dust
Happily, eagerly, laughingly as
The golden domes of our ancient young Faith
Rise beyond the dawn, where they always were.

May your nights and the road slip lovingly
Across your souls like Our Lady’s soft prayers,
And may you come at last to where you are.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Orwell Was Wrong

Mack Hall

Orwell got it wrong, of course. In 1984 the omnipresent telescreen is forced upon a subservient population by an omnipotent socialist government. The reality in the USA is that we, the people, demand telescreens from omnigoofy capitalist providers at omniexpense to ourselves.

My own telescreen began wonking out last month, and so I packed a small bag, said goodbye to the family, and sat down to spend much of the summer on the telephone talking to The Stepford Robots. Apparently the robots were tuned in to the DaVinci Templar Crystal Pyramid Club of Constantinople Matrix Continuum on Channel D via U.N.C.L.E. headquarters; they certainly weren’t listening to me.

The Stepford Humans who finally replaced the robots were as scripted and inattentive as the robots. The drill with technology appears to be that when your satellite service fails, it is your job to fix it. The Stepford Humans expect you to work through a diagnostic scheme that would challenge Bill Gates’ dog, a diagnostic scheme which includes climbing a ladder and looking at the satellite dish itself.

I’m paying how much a month for this?

Have you ever stood atop a ladder and meditated upon a satellite dish? Unless you are still living in a Neverland Where It Is Always 1968, practicing Incidental Pedicuration and chanting lines from Alan Watts on your sitar, I can’t recommend it. The device which brings Groomzillas, Flip This Double-Mortgaged House, and other classics of Western Civilization into your living room is in itself pretty dull. A satellite dish looks as if it grew up wanting to be a radar on a James Bond villain’s jet-powered gunboat with bikini babes and missiles, but somehow lost focus, dropped out of high school, hung out smoking magnetic tape with cast-off reel-to-reel tape recorders, and found its way to your roof, pondering a withered leaf, a dead lizard, and the mysteries of the universe in its existential concavity. And, like, y’know, stuff.

After a few occasions of robot crosstalk with both robots and humans, I finally had to say “Ma’am, stop.”

This barely broke the pattern of the Stepford Human reading her script.

“No, really, stop. I’ve done that. No, listen to me. Listen to me. I’ve done that. I’ve done that several times. I’m tired of getting out the ladder and climbing to the roof. I’m tired of checking cable this and cable that. I need a human being to come out here and check the system.”

“Have you checked the second receiver?” asked The Stepford Human.

“Ma’am, I don’t have a second receiver.”

“Our records show that you have two receivers.”

“Ma’am, technically, I do. I bought a new receiver to replace the old receiver when I thought the problem was in the old receiver. I made a ‘phone call and cleared that. The old receiver is in a box on a shelf and not hooked up to anything.”

“Yes, but you were supposed to make another call to deactivate the old receiver. Our records show that you have two receivers.”

“Ma’am, the old receiver was deactivated; that’s why I replaced it.”

“Yes, but you were suppose to make another call to deactivate the old receiver. Otherwise we will continue billing you for two receivers.”

“You’re billing me for two receivers?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, stop it.”

”That’s not my department. You’ll have to call another department.”

“Well, will you send a real human to come out here and look at all this? I’m not an electronics technician, and I’m too old and fat to be climbing up to the roof.”

The Stepford Human sighed, pondered all this, and grudgingly admitted that a technician, he’s very busy, you know, could come out in eleven days.

So let it be written; so let it be done. The technician arrived on the appointed date, his tattoos and piercings bridging the aesthetic gap between a storm trooper and PeeWee Herman. But he knew what he was doing. The problems were in some sort of pod (probably full of carnivorous Martians just waiting for the signal from evil President Bush to hatch and take over the planet) that the dish holds in a little arm, was as dysfunctional as a Hillary operative. This was a matter that a householder could not observe, diagnose, or repair, so take that, Stepford Robots and Stepford Humans who insisted I keep running diagnostics.

The fellow with the metal blobs sticking out of his face and the Iron Cross (he didn’t look old enough to have been in World War II, but who’s to say, eh?) on his body handed me his ‘phone; his supervisor wanted to talk to me.

“Allo? Ees thees Lorenz Haullllllll?”

“Yes, speaking.”

“Meeeeester Haulllllllllll, do you own you ownnnnnn houuussse?”

“Why? You want to buy it?”

“Eeeef yewwwww own you own house we haf a special offer…”

“Not interested.” I handed the ‘phone back to the technician, who was embarrassed by having to go through all this. And it must be pretty hard to embarrass a guy whose face is studded with metal parts (maybe a satellite dish exploded?) and who wears Iron Cross tattoos.

I pay for this, Gentle Reader. I pay for this.

Orwell, thou should be alive at this hour.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Priestblock 25487, by Jean Bernard

A brief review for

Father Bernard's narrative, written shortly after the war, is especially effective in its understatement. Fr. Bernard was an intellectual but not a writer, and so his narrative, seeking to tell only the facts, without any embellishment (really, is anyone today capable of writing a narrative without clouding it with "it changed my life forever," "defined a generation," "horrific," and all the other assembly-line filler-phrases and adjectives?)is focused, tightly-constructed, and useful. Acquaintances speak of reading through Fr. Bernard's little book of daily life in a concentration camp in one sitting -- it really is that good.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Curse of the Headless Hitler

Mack Hall

In Berlin a Communist ex-policeman crossed a barrier in a private museum in order to twist the head off a wax statue of Adolf Hitler costing around 250,000 U.S. dollars. Or, in terms of real purchasing power, a couple of gallons of gasoline.

Was that not bravely done of the Communist? Of course one wonders if the Communist ex-policeman is aware that his hero Stalin and the now heil-less, headless Hitler were great chums at one time, sharing the occasional quiet evening over Poland.

One would think that an ex-policeman would respect the property rights of others, and twist off Hitlerian heads only with the permission of the owners. "I say, Franz, may I twist off the head of your wax statue of Hitler?" "I’d rather you didn’t, Heinrich, but over here I’ve got this lovely, pre-owned Admiral Darlan you might fancy."

Another question obtains: who would spend the equivalent of a cup of Starbuck’s coffees building a wax statue of an emo creep who murdered almost as many people as Stalin or Mao-Tse-Dung? If a private museum has a quarter-mill lying about gathering dust or wax, why not build something useful, like a library of history for the children of Berlin?

Will folks now make a habit of decapitating images of Saddamn Hussein, Osama Bin Ladin, Henry VIII, Nicolae Ceaucescu, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, and whoever invented TV reality shows?

Revising and sometimes eliminating history are as American as tortillas. All the schools that were named for George Washington or Davy Crockett or Kit Carson have long since become renamed for contemporary heroes or perceptions of heroes. William Barrett Travis Elementary becomes Emilio Zapata Elementary, and in a few years Chou En Lai Elementary.

Those type-A personalities who, for good or for evil, thundered through history and thought their names would live forever are as but dead double-A batteries leaking acid in a child’s discarded video game in a ditch next to the beer cans and the fast-food wrappers and the rotting armadillo done in by a speeding Hyundai.

Heck, even your bank changes names two or three times before you go through a couple of boxes of those prettily-printed checks. A friend suggests that banks would do well to put up their new signs in velcro; they’ll be coming down in a year or two. And do you know who owns your neighborhood bank? In my little town’s case, a company out of Spain at present; the revolutionary process seems to be reversing itself.

I wonder if there is a statue of a 19th-century Spanish financier somewhere. And would anyone care if its head were knocked off by some Communist screaming "Death to El Caudillo!"? Um, dude, like Hitler he's been dead for years now. Your show of righteous outrage is about eighty years too late.

What will happen when The People learn that the Dalai Lama was a slave-owner until the Chinese ran him out of Tibet? He’s living large now, though – jet planes, hotel suites, an entourage, medals of freedom here and there. There’s lots of money to be made in the holy man business. With no statues of the Dalai Lama, folks will just have to smash their made-in-China Dalai Lama coffee mugs in protest outside Abraham Lincoln – Teddy Roosevelt – Al Gore Consolidated High School.

Watch out for the carbon footprint, though.